Last words: ‘That is where the execution chamber is located’

May 25, 2010

May 13, 2010 | Thursday

TODAY HAS BEEN a taxing day so far, and we are not past morning! Billy is now in Kevin’s shoes, although he is not taking it quite well. I have now witnessed the difference in those to after years of knowing them. I do not even think that I truly knew these two men. Many of you may not know the connection between them aside from being scheduled to be executed in consecutive days. They were sent to Death Row for the same crime. Yesterday I saw Kevin walk out and today I watched as Billy left. Kevin was executed last night. Belly won’t be back today.

The speaker just crackled I have been advised to pack because I am being moved to the camera cell after I shower. My meager belongings are packed up already. I’ve been here before, not in the exact cell but in the camera cell above this cell I occupy now. Kevin wrote on the wall. (Kevin Scott Varga March 4, 1969 to May 12, 2010 May God have mercy) I heard that Kevin spoke in this final statement about accepting Jesus Christ as his savior. I always knew that he had it in him. God bless your soul, Kevin.

You may be wondering what a camera cell is. Death Row is separated form the general prison population and Death Watch is further separated form Death Row. Only two cells on Death Watch are equipped with a camera to observe those two individuals who are closest to their execution date. Billy Galloway was taken from one of these cells this morning. Kevin vacated this on I am in now.

Speaker just crackled. My expected legal phone call has been scheduled and will be put through shortly. Excuse me, the escort team is coming for me.

Legal news? It was my expected attorney phone call. Well, from the start? I was searched by the escort team before I was handcuffed. I was escorted to the visitation room where the attorney phone call took place. It was set for 11:30 a.m. The call was put through by an officer working a the visitation room, and, after the connection with my attorney was made, the phone was handed to me. A hearing is being held today so I was only brought up to date on what our situation is. People are coming forward, although the state prosecutor has not released the taped conversation, which we need to prove my innocence. I should know more tomorrow. On execution days, at 12 noon all prison movement is halted while the condemned man is escorted out of the visitation area. Billy walked right by the booth where I stood. I knocked on the door’s window to get his attention and say words of encouragement. Billy looked shaken, frightened, and his gaze fell towards the ground. Shoulders slumped. I did not expect that from him. Billy shook his head and walked away with several officers in tow. I noticed that one handcuffed hand flashed me a peace sign.

At this prices moment Billy is in the belly of a windowless white van. He is on his way to the Walls Prison unit in Huntsville. That is where the execution chamber is located.

(This was the last blog entry I received from Rogelio. It was written six days before he was executed but I received it in the mail two hours before he died. I don’t know if he wrote any more. The mail service in an out of Death Row is horrible, so it’s entirely possible that there may be some more on their way here. If there are more, I will post them. If not, I have fulfilled my promise to Rogelio. On his behalf, on behalf of his beloved Norma and his great friends Isabelle and Margy, and on behalf of his family — and on my behalf — I thank you for taking the time to read these.– Juan R. Palomo, May 24, 2010)

How could it be any other way?

May 24, 2010

May 12, 2010 | Wednesday

BITTERSWEET WOULD BE one way to describe today. I was at the cell door as Kevin walked by saying his last words to us all. Before he left, the grievance officer was coming in picking up grievance forms. Kevin called her and stated that he had a verbal grievance. “I have an execution scheduled today and am grieving against it.” Kevin thought that it was funny. Reminds me of last week, when an officer offered me a food tray with cold pancakes and Kevin laughed because I verbally refused the pancakes. Told the officer that I verbally refused his ugly face too. Sorry, but I hate pancakes.

Visits are something one would look forward to. The speaker crackled and advised me that I had a visit. Was waiting on this, actually. My Norma showed up. Awesome visit. It only seems that the visit was over in a flash! No good. The good feeling continues but dimmed after Norma left. I turned to catch a glimpse of Norma on her way out but instead caught sight of a mother speaking into a phone to her son (Kevin) who was only hours from what is likely happening right now, his execution. Executions are carried out at 6 p.m. I was captivated by Kevin’s mom as it was obvious that she was giving him all the strength that little woman had to offer. She walked away, tears streaming down her face. How could it be any other way? The strong bond between a mother and child is no less among us.

My spirit and sanity remain intact

May 24, 2010

May 11, 2010 | Tuesday

I AM SO tired but sleep will not claim me. When sleep does come, it seems that I am only halfway in, battling to stop my thoughts. I do not recall ever having slept like this when I was free. I don’t think. Anyhow. It is what it is and as I have heard before the sun will set and rise again tomorrow. Moments of imbalance are common to us all. Some do not recognize them. It is so early that I doubt anybody is up. Or maybe they are. It’s really quiet. It would not take noise to have somebody up, in thought. Both Kevin

Vargas and Bill Calloway are scheduled for execution in consecutive days. Kevin is set for Wednesday, only a bit over a day’s time, and Billy on the following day. They could possible be up right now although I do not hear them. I am scheduled to be executed in the following week and here you find me pushing my pencil around. My situation seems surreal, like a horrible nightmare that began 20 years ago. The ex-prosecutor’s admission of the taped conversation is something that I have dreamed of and struggled with. Twenty years. My spirit and sanity remain intact.

What would go though a condemned man’s mind?

May 23, 2010

May 10, 2010 | Monday

ANOTHER WEEK STARTS today. Monday. The days seem to become shorter now. Only 9 days before my execution date. I have told myself that I will keep steady in my blogging but this prison routine seems stale to speak of. I did get to go out and stretch for an hour today.

What would go though a condemned man’s mind when he gets to within sight of his execution date? I can not speak for others but, myself, I have not given myself up for dead. I remain optimistic that the judge who set the execution date will allow us to review the taped conversation in full. The taped conversation has been located but the local judicial authorities are not allowing us to review them…after all these years of their denial that this taped conversation exists. Why deny my right to review these tapes? I will tell you why: the state’s investigator, Mr. Alvarado, not only told two DAs (Luis Saenz and Benjamin Euresti) about having lied and perjured himself in his testimony about me but he told the judge himself about his lies and perjury! This was before they sentenced me to prison. They were fully aware that they were sending me to prison unjustly.

That’s love

May 23, 2010

May 9, 2010 | Sunday

THESE TACOS IN my cell really do taste great. Still in this isolation cell but hunger has given meaning to ingenuity. My neighbor, John Alea, is a good man. J. Through a crack in the door and one at a time … it’s a good day. Earlier today I was conversating with John about life. John is over 50 yeas of age and obviously more experienced about life than I. This week his daughter Sabrina came to visit him and he was telling me about his love for his children. I have no children that I know of and always have wondered how men who do stay sane. John says that it hasn’t been easy but as best as he could he has remained in contact wit them. Sabrina’s bus rides form Dallas to her aunt’s in Austin so she could be brought to see him in her teen-age years: That’s love. Reminds me of my mother’s visits as far a family goes. Love…it’s a word that means so much and I apologize for confining it to this. In your own words, you can undoubtedly give justice to this word, love. What’s your story? A love story? P.S. To all the mothers out there, happy Mothers Day!

And now where to, from here?

May 23, 2010

May 8, 2010 | Saturday

WHAT I WOULDN’T give for a peek into the future. Only 11 days before my execution date arrives. Last night this was vividly on my mind and my dream after I fell asleep. It’s a crazy thing to see yourself strapped on the gurney in the execution chamber. Before I woke up I saw these words: Fear Not, I will help you. I woke up before the execution was carried out.

For so many years, I have known that this taped conversation has existed but was denied by local judicial authorities. And now where to, from here? I was unjustly sent to prison by those local judicial authorities. This has tormented me for years and continues even to this day.

The taped conversation has been located but I am still scheduled to be executed

May 22, 2010

Note: This is one of several blog entries I received in the mail from Rogelio about an hour before he was executed. I will be posting them over the next several days. — Juan

May 7, 2010 | Friday

I AM WAITING for an escort team to take me out into a booth at the visitation area. I have been advised that I have a legal telephone call. My anxiety shot straight up at hearing the speaker crackle and my name being called. I was advised of a legal phone call and obviously I am anxious for an update on my legal status, so …

Walking out into the large hallway that runs the length of this building, I saw for myself all the metal piping and wires being installed for the forthcoming cameras. I was assaulted by so many visuals! People going and coming from different departments and security. More important, I was escorted to the visitation area where a lazy officer sat fixing her wig. I was placed in a booth and after she got her wig fixed, she made my legal phone call…my attorney (Richard Ellis) came on the line. Right before the call was placed I had managed to distract myself and my anxiety was forgotten. All that anxiety leapt into my throat at hearing my attorney’s voice. Ellis’ update began with a greeting and then he told me that they (my legal team) have found Elizabeth and other very important evidence concerning my innocence. Elizabeth has confirmed to my attorney that she was threatened and viciously harassed by the authorities…she was forced into implicating me in a double murder that she actually had no knowledge of. Also, a grand juror was found who sat in on proceedings related to charges being brought against me. This grand juror also states that they were directed by the judge to bring these murder charges against me. Most important is that the taped conversation between the investigator who accused me, the district attorneys and the judge himself have been located. The taped conversation has been located but I am still scheduled to be executed on the 19th of May.

Buddy: thank you and farewell

May 21, 2010

This is Isabelle’s account of her last conversation with Rogelio shortly before he was executed. I apologize for the bad translation (from the  original French), which I did using Google and my minimal French skills. It is my hope that as soon as she can, Isabelle will provide a better translation. It was Isabelle who first introduced me to Rogelio about 13 years ago, and it was she who pleaded with me that I write to him. Had it not been for her, I would never have gotten to know this amazing person. She has since become one of my dearest friends. — Juan

As some of you may have already read, Rogelio has departed. Yesterday, May 19, 2010 at 6:19 p.m. local time in Huntsville, Texas. At 11:15 p.m. last night I was lucky to be allowed to call him. What an  emotion to hear him one last time ! Norma’s, his fiancée, had provided two numbers at the Walls Unit, where the death chamber is. Rogelio had been transferred there a few hours before his execution and had been authorized to make and receive calls.  After several unsuccessful attempts, I finally reached a prison receptionist and before I knew what was happening, I heard his enthusiastic voice say: “Hey! Chavela. It’s so good to hear you,” he said. Right away the conversation moved onto a fast pace, as if we were  in front of each other during our visits in the Polunsky Unit in Livingston.

Rogelio was very happy to have me on the phone. “It’s so good to hear your voice!” he repeated, and I was amazed to feel him so close and in such good spirits. A guard had brought him his last meal and he had begun to eat enchiladas with meat and cheese and was obviously very hungry. He had not eaten all day so he could enjoy the copious meal he had ordered. “It’s been 20 years since I’ve eaten enchiladas, Chavela, and they are not bad at all!” And he continued to talk to me, his mouth full, apologetically, as if we were in the visiting room at Polunsky and not a few feet from the execution chamber … totally surreal but all too real.

He asked about my family. He wished to talk to my husband, and they did for a few minutes. When I got back on the phone, he told me that he was doing well and that he was ready to go. “It’s not like in 2008, Chavela. I did not want to go but now I’m prepared. I know my chances are minimal.

My voice must have weakened because he asked: “Are you okay? You must be strong, I’m not afraid to go.” And then he spoke of his gratitude and joy to have shared all these years with my family and me, our mutual friends, our visits, our letters and everything. I felt the tears coming to my eyes, thinking that maybe all this  was about to end. As he was  eating on with such gusto, I thought if only if could have enjoyed this type of meal before.

Then the guard informed him that his lawyer wanted to speak on another line. “Call me in 10 minutes,” said Rogelio. I hung up with a small pang in heart. The lawyer…

When I called him again 15 minutes later, his voice had changed a bit. He was calmer and his voice was lower. “The  5th Circuit Court rejected my appeal. In an attempt to offer him some hope, I reminded him that his lawyers were still going to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“They do not want to listen to me,” said Rogelio. “It’s over, Isa.”

The lump in my throat turned into tears and he heard it in my voice. “Do not cry, buddy,” he said. “I’m ready, I’m strong, I can not afford the luxury of not being. I will watch over you. If you have something important to tell, say it now Chavela,  we no longer have a lot of time” (it was about 4:15 p.m., he had  to prepare for the execution).

I must confess that I do not  remember all I told him. I know I thanked him for his friendship, trust, and everything we had shared over the last 12 years. I told him again how much he meant to me and my family,  the admiration and support he had received from many and that he would be missed.

“You too, Isa, but I will send you a sign.” And I could imagine his  smile.

A voice rang out over the intercom and he said: “I’m hanging up now, I love you Buddy. thank you, thank you, love you.”

I hung up and I let my emotions run free. Tears, many tears. It all seemed so unreal, his voice playful, the special meal eaten with gusto just a few steps down the corridor to the execution chamber. A nice moment shared between friends if this weren’t a place where something tragic was about to happen.

Rogelio approached the end of his life with a kind of relief. I sat in front of a small flickering candle, I continued to pray  letting my tears flow.  I felt a deep gratitude for those moments we shared over the phone, for the calm and peace that Rogelio  seemed to have  found. I also felt a deep gratitude that our destinies crossed.   He would have been 38 years old on May 29. What a path we traveled since his first letter to me when he was 25 years old. Buddy: thank you, love you and farewell.

Promise to My Roy

May 20, 2010
April 20th, 2010 | Thursday
How can I express what I feel? How can I even write as my body shakes with sobs? Just when I think my tears have dried out, a dam opens and they start to rush out… I will tell you this, though, I feel stronger than I thought I would be. Not many people understand this, but I know that many of you on here do. Roy and I believe we became one. We could feel each other, whether across the miles that separated us, or looking into each other’s eyes across a window. He promised he would be with me always. He asked me to call on him when I felt despair, and he would cover me with his love. I feel him with me now. Yesterday, as I physically held him close to me, my heart broken to pieces, I asked him to carry me through. He is. My pain is for myself, for I am selfish and want him here. I know he is finally running free. No more chains around his wrists. No more sadistic guards dragging him around like a sub-human. His is now covered by the love of those who went before him, and he is waiting for me. I told him he’d better not mess around with some angel up there cause I just won’t be having that! He laughed and told me I’d better not get up there too soon! I wish everyone had known the beautiful person that he was. He was loved so much. I’ll tell you a secret… a few guards actually cried for him and said they would miss him. He was a beautiful person.
We had some beautiful moments. We said all we needed to say to each other. His family was wonderful to me, and I will hold them in my heart forever. There were so many of us there. We had to run in and out just to make sure everyone got to be with him. It was unbelievably kind of them to sacrifice minutes off their time to allow us the extra moments alone. They were a part of him, so I love them. He left us with dignity, he left us with laughter.
He is here with me. I can remember the things we talked about, and it makes me smile. I miss him terribly. I know it will get harder before it starts to get better. Eventually, I will receive all his last letters. I will no longer have a reason to run to the mailbox. I do have our dreams, though. We knew that in our dreams, everything was possible.
I will not stop fighting for Roy. His friends and legal team will not stop fighting for Roy. We believed in him, and his death only motivates us to keep moving forward.
I promised you, Roy, I would never leave you alone. I promised you, Roy, I would fight an army for you… all 4’10” of me. This is far from over. The laugh is on those that did this to you, because we will still be here, fighting this injustice. Be with me, Love.
Yours Always and Forever, Norma

AP story on Rogelio’s execution: “I’m going to sleep now”

May 20, 2010

Published: 31 minutes ago

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) – Condemned Texas inmate Rogelio Cannady was executed Wednesday evening for killing his cellmate while already serving two life sentences for a double murder.

Cannady, 37, from Harlingen, didn’t deny fatally beating 55-year-old Leovigildo Bonal with a belt and padlock in October 1993, but he insisted the attack at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice McConnell Unit in Beeville was self defense from Bonal’s sexual advances.

In the death chamber he smiled and nodded to his brother, a niece and three friends he selected to witness his death and told them repeatedly he loved them.

“I’m going to be OK,” he said as they watched through a window. “Y’all take care of yourself … May God have mercy on my soul.”

As he waited for the drugs to take effect, he laughed and lifted his head from the gurney.

“I thought it was going to be harder than this,” he said, grinning. “I’m going to sleep now. I can feel it. It’s affecting me.”

Then he began snoring.

Eight minutes later, at 6:19 p.m. CDT, he was pronounced dead.

Cannady walked to the death chamber about 30 minutes after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal that his confession in the 1990 murders of two teenage runaways in the Rio Grande Valley was coerced, meaning Cannady should have never been imprisoned in the first place.